Morphological and ultrastructural analysis of Turritopsis nutricula during life cycle reversal

Tissue Cell. 2003 Jun;35(3):213-22. doi: 10.1016/s0040-8166(03)00028-4.


The hydrozoa life cycle is characterized, in normal conditions, by the alternation of a post-larval benthic polyp and an adult pelagic medusa; however, some species of Hydrozoa react to environmental stress by reverting their life cycle: i.e. an adult medusa goes back to the juvenile stage of polyp. This very uncommon life cycle could be considered as some sort of inverted metamorphosis. A morphological study of different stages during the reverted life cycle of Turritopsis nutricula led to the characterization of four different stages: healthy medusa, unhealthy medusa, four-leaf clover and cyst. The ultrastructural study of the cellular modifications (during the life cycle reversion of T. nutricula) showed the presence of both degenerative and apoptotic processes. Degeneration was prevalent during the unhealthy medusa and four-leaf clover stages, while the apoptotic rate was higher during the healthy medusa and cyst stages. The significant presence of degenerative and apoptotic processes could be related to the occurrence of a sort of metamorphosis when an adult medusa transforms itself into a polyp.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Hydrozoa / anatomy & histology*
  • Hydrozoa / physiology*
  • Life Cycle Stages / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning